What is your greatest work?

What is your greatest work?

Our Greatest Work

Exploring Jesus’ Mission in Matthew 14

By Joy Dahl – Guest Contributor

As we emerge from a long season of uncertainty and isolation, many of us still struggle with ongoing challenges and lingering questions: 

How do you feel about the future? 

How do we find re-energizing purpose in our everyday life, regardless of circumstances?  

Matthew 14 shares the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. This is the only miracle besides Christ’s resurrection recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15), so it represents a pivotal event in the lives of Jesus and His disciples. The crowd is numbered at 5,000 men plus women and children, leading some scholars to estimate that the total crowd could have numbered 20,000 people or more.  

Imagine yourself in the story. Who do you relate to in the passage?

If you were there that day, would you be in the crowd running to meet Jesus? Would you be the young boy with five loaves and two fish (John 6:9)? While we often focus on the actions of Jesus or the crowd, God also gives us insight through the disciples themselves.  

Jesus’ Mission

Mark and Luke tell us that sometime before this day, Jesus had sent out the 12 disciples, two-by-two on a short-term mission trip. Jesus sent them with no money, no food, and no supplies to surrounding towns with His authority to preach repentance, drive out evil spirits, and heal the sick. 

While the disciples were gone, Jesus learned that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist . As Jesus mourned His cousin, the disciples returned and excitedly reported all they had done and taught. Jesus then shepherded the small group to a solitary place where they could spend quality time together.

But God had a divine appointment for Jesus and the disciples on the other side of the sea.

Crowds amassed and Jesus’ compassion poured out through a long day of healing and teaching. The context leaves us to wonder, what were the disciples doing? Were they sitting at Jesus’ feet learning and getting equipped for future ministry? Were they focused on crowd control? Were they stealing away to nap after the “mountaintop high” of their amazing yet exhausting short-term mission trip?

None of the accounts tells us for sure, but as the day neared an end the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowd away so the people could find something to eat.

And Jesus shocked His closest friends by saying, “You give them something to eat.”

The disciples had nothing to give. Fresh off their breadless, moneyless, supply-less mission trip, they could not provide for themselves, much less for this enormous crowd. What could they offer? All they could do was bring to Jesus one young boy’s five small loaves of bread and two small fish.

Jesus worshiped God the Father, giving thanks for the provision and the miracle about to unfold. Then He took the five loaves and broke them in half. Creating 12 small offerings (10 bread and two fish), He gave one to each disciple to pass out. The disciples took their one piece and went into the crowd, working as the hands and feet of Christ among the people. 

And after all, 20,000 had eaten and were completely satisfied, 12 basketfuls of leftovers remained: One basketful for each disciple to carry in awe as they celebrated the miracle in which they had just participated.  

This long day concluded with an act of undeniable proof of Christ’s sovereignty and His desire for the disciples to carry out His mission. Their mundane act of service transformed into great work for the glory of God.  

Our Response

As Christ’s disciples today, we too are called, equipped, and invited to join His work in the world in our everyday workplace mission fields. We are: 

  • Called to walk with Jesus day-by-day and be transformed in His likeness by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 
  • Equipped with “loaves and fish” – our gifts, talents, experiences, resources, positions, and circles of influence that we receive and then offer back to Him through our work and service.  
  • Sent with Christ’s authority to join the good works He has prepared specifically for each of us to do (Ephesians 2:10). 

Friends, all of us are created in the image of God, who works. And all of us work, regardless of the type of work and whether or not we’re paid for our work. Jesus invites all believers to live as His disciples and to work as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:17–20) – right where He has strategically placed each one of us in this season.

As you look forward, consider this: What provision of “loaves and fish” has God entrusted to you?

Make a list of gifts, talents, experience, resources, and positions you have. Prayerfully ask Jesus how you can work as His hands and feet in your everyday circles, distributing your “loaves and fish” for His glory. This is our greatest work! Let’s join with Jesus and praise Him each step of the way. Let’s joyfully carry the overflowing basketfuls of blessings which display His continued love, care, and compassion for the lost and hurting people in our world.

Dr. Joy Dahl

Guest Contributor

Dr. Joy Dahl is executive director of Polished, a network designed to gather working women to navigate the workplace and explore faith together. Dr. Dahl, a speaker, blogger, and Bible teacher, earned her doctorate at Dallas Theological Seminary.

 

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Do you notice when God interrupts?

Do you notice when God interrupts?

Are you busy when God interrupts?

Exploring Jesus’ Miracles in Matthew 9

By Bennett Rolan – BSF Editorial Manager

Before my alarm clock could ring, I was already awake. Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, I mentally worked through my to-do list. 

I had school lunches to pack, emails to read, yesterday’s laundry to fold and, yet somehow, I desperately needed to find time to connect with the Lord. 

Busyness isn’t an excuse for neglecting time with our Father. But balancing everyday demands can feel overwhelming, limiting our time and spiritual availability. 

As I prayed through my frustration, I thought about Jesus’ daily life. While He was responsible for shepherding 12 wayward men, He taught crowds of thousands, built an eternal kingdom, and withstood consistent opposition to His ministry. 

Jesus was busy! But in Matthew 8:1, when “large crowds followed Him,” He paused to respond to a request to heal a man with leprosy. When I read Jesus’ words in verse 3, I’m stunned by His powerful response, “I am willing.”

Examining my own heart, I have to ask, “Am I willing?” 

Am I willing to be interrupted? Am I willing to sacrifice my productivity, my comfort, and my control to be interrupted by those God places in my path?

In his famous work, Life Together, German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks. … It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God’s ‘crooked yet straight path.’” 

Jesus Saw Her

In Matthew 9:18, a desperate synagogue leader knelt before Jesus saying “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” We might expect Jesus to rush, following God’s direction and serving this influential man. 

But in Matthew 9:22, Jesus stopped on the way. When a suffering woman touched His robe, “Jesus turned and saw her.” 

Jesus saw beyond the woman’s position and status. He paused, setting His plans aside to respond tenderly to her, calling her “daughter.” Instead of rushing through the crowd to the home of an important man, Jesus took time to see straight to her heart. He saw her need and honored her faith.

1 Samuel 16:7b tells us, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Jesus Responded in Faith

After healing the woman, Jesus arrived at the Synagogue leader’s home. A crowd had already gathered to mourn the death of the sick young girl whom Jesus came to save. 

Jesus responded with faith and confidence, trusting the Father to accomplish His plan. His response seemed so ridiculous that the crowd “laughed at Him.”

Jesus miraculously raised the girl from the dead, and “News of this spread through all that region.”

The Father was glorified when Jesus was interrupted on His behalf, and He’s glorified when we respond with the same faith. So often, when my plans are derailed, I lose sight of how God may be working. I forget my faith, not trusting that when I’m interrupted by God, nothing, not even death, can stop His perfect plan.

Bigger Plans Than Ours

In 1938, when Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together, being “interrupted by God” meant putting his life on hold to actively resist the Nazi rise to power. He ultimately sacrificed his plans to become a university professor, to get married, and to start a family. Deeply sensitive to the needs of those around him, Bonhoeffer walked God’s “crooked yet straight path.”  

In 1940 he was forbidden from speaking in public. In 1941, his right to print or publish was revoked. In 1943, Bonhoeffer was finally arrested. He was executed in 1945, shortly before the Allied troops liberated the concentration camp. 

Throughout Hitler’s regime, Bonhoeffer faithfully defended God’s Word and His people. His response followed a pattern of daily commitment to God, holding his plans loosely before the Father. 

When we practice looking for God’s interruptions, we make a habit of seeing people as God does. And when a great moment comes, when He asks us to respond in faith, we are ready.

Personally, Matthew 9 forces me to ask, “Am I willing?” These verses challenge me to pray for eyes to see and a faith to respond.

Through Jesus’ moments on the cross and His resurrection, I find the courage to believe that God can accomplish anything. 

Acts 2:24 reminds us, “But God raised Him from the dead. He set Him free from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”

If our Savior isn’t bound by death itself, then we can trust Him with our time, our schedules, our finances, and our fears.  We, too, can find the freedom to be interrupted by God, trusting that He will expand our time and capacity to accomplish His plans.

In light of the gospel, a busy day can be one more opportunity for God to interrupt. It’s one more day for us to respond. And it’s another moment for us to become a little more like Jesus.

Learn more about Jesus’s miracles in the book of Matthew. Join a BSF class near you! https://join.bsfinternational.org/ 

Bennett Rolan

Editorial Manager

Bennett Rolan joined the BSF staff in 2017 after working for several Christian ministries and non-profits. She loves to combine her passion for God’s Word and her journalism background to share stories of God’s Work in and through BSF. As a wife to a busy college football coach and a mom to four young children, BSF studies keep her relationship with the Lord grounded and focused. She loves to learn from fellow believers as God faithfully grows her each day.

 

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Why the Sermon on the Mount Matters

Why the Sermon on the Mount Matters

Why the Sermon on the Mount Matters

By Dr. Darrell Bock- Dallas Theological Seminary

Imagine the pressure of walking into church knowing you must follow hundreds of rules perfectly. During Jesus’ time, God’s people lived according to a collection of 613 mandates extracted from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The religious leaders of the time defined their faith by how perfectly they could keep the minute details of each law, even adding stipulations to increase their perceived righteousness. 

Today, we may be free from many of these stipulations. But, just like those religious leaders, we’re often tempted to measure our righteousness by our rule-following.   

For many of us, biblical teachings can represent countless opportunities to fail or fall short. We’re either tempted to ignore God’s standards, knowing we can never measure up, or we cling to them, trying to earn the favor of God and men. 

Jesus, however, challenges both extremes. In the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, He offers a path forward that holds onto high standards without tying our status to them. 

Rather than a presentation of a new list of rules to follow, the Sermon on the Mount is an invitation into the very heart of God. Jesus gently moves us from a shallow reading of what we should do to the true fulfillment of the law — who we should be. This transforms our understanding of blessing and identity from external indicators to an internal and eternal perspective.  

Blessing Redefined

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines “blessing” as “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.” 

With that definition in mind, we’re tempted to think of relationships, finances, or hobbies, just as the religious leaders were tempted to think of position and influence.  

Jesus presents a radically different definition of blessings. His blessings are not about external comforts. Instead, He promises the kingdom of heaven, mercy, and to call His followers children of God. The one who is blessed is full of internal traits drawn by the grace of God:  

the poor in spirit 

those who mourn,  

the meek,  

those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,  

merciful,  

pure in heart,  

peacemakers,  

persecuted,  

and those insulted because of Jesus.  

These are all characteristics of the heart — internals, not externals. 

Jesus does not promise “theirs is financial security, they will be shown job promotions, or they will be called popular.” His is the promise of being part of the kingdom both now and yet to come. 

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus teaches: 

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus forces us to examine our idea of “treasure” and “blessing.” We are challenged to ask, “Where is my heart?”  

When we humbly go before Him, confessing our sin with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, we receive an eternal blessing that is far richer than anything we could possess on earth.  

Identity Established 

In Jesus’ time and in Roman culture, Jewish believers were easy to recognize. Their clothes, their holidays, and their eating habits clearly established their religious identity. Our identity as Christians isn’t always as visible, but in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly tells His followers  we are to be distinct. 

So, what sets us apart from our neighbors? 

In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus establishes our identity as salt and light. This is the true purpose of our good actions — through our heart for others, we show God’s heart for them. A true fulfillment of the law is not about our own status, but about our purity of heart and our representation of God as His people.  

We are a people who understand that murder comes from anger, adultery from lust, and divorce from a broken commitment. We don’t need to make oaths, because our word is good. We value forgiveness over revenge. 

Jesus calls us to be different because He is different. We are transformed because He transforms us. We ask what the Father desires of us, and we prioritize what is precious to Him. 

When our daily lives reflect the teachings of Jesus, we reflect the light of Christ. We are not defined by the commands we keep, but by a heart that seeks to keep them. 

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

Want to learn more about Jesus’ teaching in Matthew? Check out our blog archive for more posts like this one.

Dr. Darrell Bock

Dallas Theological Seminary

Dr. Darrell Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He hosts The Table Podcast, leading discussions related to God, Christianity and culture.

What is God teaching you?

Dr. Bock shared his insights from the Sermon the Mount. We want to hear yours! In the form below, share how God has been working through His Word this year.

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Is your waiting God’s preparation?

Is your waiting God’s preparation?

Is your waiting God’s Preparation?

By Chad Lackey – BSF Chief Adminstrative Officer

Have you ever felt like the future is unclear, even disconnected from the present? You know you have skills and potential. You can do more. But circumstances have left you thinking, “What is God’s purpose for me?”

For years, our daughter Chelsea prayed for the opportunity to own her own business. She dreamed of opening a CrossFit gym that fostered a community centered on love, focus, and passion. Chelsea was on a mission, viewing a gym as an opportunity to share Christ’s love with others. When a location in Seattle became available in 2018, it seemed like God’s provision.

From the moment she opened the gym doors, however, Chelsea faced some of the hardest and yet most rewarding circumstances of her adult life, one after another. The calling for the gym was clear, but every day brought new challenges.

As it turned out, that experience was God’s purpose, just not how we pictured. I mean, who can anticipate a pandemic?

Six months after the first COVID case was reported in the U.S., federal and local restrictions forced Chelsea’s gym to close. After years of careful planning, Chelsea faced the painful reality that her business would not survive the pandemic. It was hard for us to understand why God led her to this difficult place.

Without a clear path forward, Chelsea clung to God’s character. Trusting His faithfulness allowed her to persevere, even when the outcome was uncertain. I watched my daughter pray and wait, because with God nothing is wasted. His purpose stretches well beyond our plans. He is always shaping us to fulfill His bigger mission.

Jesus Prepared the Disciples

In Matthew 10:6-7, Jesus sent His disciples on a mission.

“Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

The mission was clear, but the instructions were a real challenge. Jesus required His disciples to be generous, unoffendable, and courageous. He challenged them to rely on God, promising He would provide for their needs.

We don’t know how the disciples reacted to Jesus’ instructions, but we do know they went. They were obedient. They walked in faith and experienced God’s provision along the way. After months of following Jesus, they were given authority and trusted to practice their preaching and reach the lost. Under the threat of persecution and rejection, the disciples went, and we know they all returned.

So why did Jesus send them on this mission?  Was it to teach them that God provides, that He is reliable? Was it to test their faith in difficult circumstances? Probably all of this and more.

Jesus used this experience to prepare them for the future. The disciples’ success wasn’t measured by a count of those healed or those who followed Christ. In Matthew’s account, the emphasis is on experience, obedience, and preparation.

In Matthew’s final chapter, Jesus gives the disciples their ultimate mission.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus’ words echo Matthew 10:6-7, but He expands their commission. This time, they are to reach all people and all nations. Earlier, Jesus taught them that His power was enough to complete the mission He gave them. Through Him they found the strength to be generous, unoffendable, and courageous. Their faith was enough because God is enough.

Jesus Prepares Us Today

For Chelsea, God led her through some very difficult experiences to prepare her for what was to come. When her business closed, she had time to reflect on God’s character and His mission. When presented with a new opportunity to open another gym, Chelsea had to make a choice. Would she take a risk and step out in faith? Could she trust God to provide?

Chelsea opened her new gym in October 2020. Her past experiences are helping her build a community of love, focus, and passion. As a family, we continue to pray that this gym will be a place where people come to know the love of Christ.

You have probably been where Chelsea was, asking, “What is God’s purpose?” Or maybe you are there right now. I encourage you to take some time in those moments to reflect on what God has taught you. Where has He been faithful? How has He loved you? What do you know about God and circumstances for certain now that you just thought you knew before?

Knowing that God has given you these truths and experiences, be encouraged that He is able do more for you than you can imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Stay strong and stay on mission because He is reliable.

 

Interested in joining a BSF group? Learn more at https://www.bsfinternational.org/

BSF CFO Chad Lackey learned God's purpose through waiting.

Chad Lackey

BSF Chief Administrative Officer

Chad is the Chief Administrative Officer at BSF.  Chad and Lauri, his wife, are blessed with three children, two children-in-law and five grandchildren!  Chad lives in the Seattle area where he served as a teaching leader and group leader before answering the call to BSF HQ.  Chad loves God, loves people and loves to see life change one step at a time!  Chad and Lauri love to hang out with friends, travel some and spend time with their family!  Of course, there is golf too…

What is God teaching you?

Chad Lackey shared his insights from Matthew 10, we want to know what God is teaching you! In the form below, share how God has been working through His Word this year.

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God’s Word is a ‘Lifeline’ for COVID Chaplain

God’s Word is a ‘Lifeline’ for COVID Chaplain

God’s Word is a ‘Lifeline’ for COVID Chaplain

By Bethany Peterson – BSF Editorial Assistant

“I don’t know if I could do another year of what I just did,” longtime BSF member Kevin Deegan said. “I feel like, especially one year later, we need new words to describe how we feel. We used words like crazy, unprecedented and exhausted way too early in the pandemic.” Now, Kevin and his colleagues are simply out of words to capture the intensity of their experiences this year. 

A little over a year ago, Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. made the unimaginable decision to close their hospital doors to all visitors. Kevina chaplain in the Step-Down Intensive Care Unit at Providence, found himself taking on an unexpected role as his floor was transformed into the COVID unit. 

“I became the COVID chaplain,” Kevin said simply. “Since then, we’ve had COVID patients on every floor of our hospital, and so every chaplain has become a COVID chaplain. But I like to say I was the first.” 

Before COVID, Providence averaged about 50 deaths in a month, but this January alone, amid the height of the COVID crisis, the hospital reported 127 deaths. A chaplain is required to not only be at every death, but also all other crisis events, including code blues (when a patient’s heart and breathing stopand trauma cases, to support suffering patients and anxious families. 

This year, to say Kevin and his team of chaplains are stretched thin is an understatement. Their roles have changed drastically, their hours increased, and the emotional toll is exponentially higher.

But through the exhaustion and pain, God’s Word has steadied this team, and Kevin has personally experienced God’s guidance in desperate moments.

Kevin Deegan, "COVID Chaplain," pictured comforting a patient

Courtesy of Mario Tama, Getty Images

Creating Connections

Early in the pandemic, when a daughter was told that her father would not recover, she immediately drove to the hospital, hoping for a chance to see him. When she arrived, her access to the COVID unit was restricted. Walking to meet her, Kevin spontaneously decided to FaceTime the doctor, who turned the camera to her dad. In that moment, Kevin watched a daughter find healing and closure as she said goodbye to her father. 

“I’ll cherish this,” she told Kevin. 

With this experience in mind, Kevin took an idea to his manager — to purchase iPads for the department. The chaplain team pivoted their ministry to a virtual setting.  

“For almost a year now, I’ve walked the halls with the same iPad every day, and I’ve been inundated with these video requests and keeping families connected. A lot of my job has changed to that,” he explained.  

Chaplaincy, as Kevin views it, is a ministry of presence, meant to embody compassion, empathy and support in times of crisis. “To take that theological foundation of my work as chaplain and translate it to a virtual setting, where I’m not technically in person, is that still going to have the same impact? Is it still going to resonate?” Kevin worried. 

To their surprise, adapting to virtual chaplaincy has opened their eyes to previously unreached patients and family members.  

Providence Holy Cross Medical Center serves a lower socioeconomic, and high immigrant, population. Once Kevin began doing video calls with family members, he realized that many of them lived out of the country or would have been unable to come into the hospital because of other factors such as work schedule or caring for children. 

“So even if we completely go back to normal where visitation is back the way it was, I still think there’s a way for us to keep families connected virtually that we weren’t thinking about before,” Kevin saidI still want to be able to offer that because I think it’s part of the whole person healing that we’re seeking. 

Equipped for Innovation

Having been in BSF for 17 years as a class member, Group Leader, Children’s Leader, Class Administrator and, most recently, online group member, Kevin had a head start in translating spiritual support and discussion into a virtual environment.   

“In the same way that BSF has had to translate the intimacy of a group [online], I’ve had to learn the intimacy of connecting with the family virtually,” Kevin said. In fact, Kevin reported that his online group experience has “actually been the deepest group discussion that I’ve been a part of at BSF.”  

Kevin attributes his ability to adapt to new circumstances and lead others spiritually through crisis to the framework he learned throughout his BSF experience.  

When Kevin first joined BSF in a Young Adult group after high school, his life was on a different track. He had never been a great student and was pursuing a career in acting, never expecting to return to any sort of higher education. However, through learning to study God’s Word each week with the daily lesson questions and discussion groups, Kevin had an epiphany:  

“Maybe I’ve just been studying the wrong things. … Maybe I have a passion for God’s Word,” he realized. “That [passion] really evolved through my participation in BSF and certainly my participation in leadership. Through BSF and a few mentors in my life, I discerned a call to ministry and went back to school because of the foundation or the experience of having done some studying with BSF,” Kevin shared.  

For Kevin, BSF was the place where he built a foundation for learning to do ministry well and to be in spiritual leadership. “I feel like I’m equipped well to do this work. Even when we’re going to uncharted territory as we have this last year, because of BSF, because of that strong foundation that was built, I feel confident to continue to meet those needs,” he said. 

Bringing God’s Word to Life

Through this year’s Genesis study, Kevin has seen God’s Word come to life as he minsters to patients, families and medical staff.  

“As a longtime member of BSF, I have come to believe that God’s Word is ‘alive and active.’ So, I expect whatever we are studying in BSF to come up in my week,” he shared. “I have been impacted by all the family and relational dynamics throughout Genesis. Managing family dynamics is part of my work as a chaplain, but I have also been encountering difficult relationships in my personal life. God is in the business of transformation and reconciliation.” 

Secure in God’s Word, Kevin and his team approach each day with confidence in His direction and provision. 

“There is another presence with us, that’s the Spirit of God with us, protecting us,” he said. “We will come out of this whole.” 

COVID Chaplain Kevin Deegan pictured facilitating a virtual spiritual meeting

Courtesy of Jae Hong, Associated Press

Learn more about BSF at https://www.bsfinternational.org/

Bethany Peterson

BSF Editorial Assistant

Bethany Peterson is an editorial assistant at Bible Study Fellowship Headquarters. She is third generation BSF-er and a native Texan. She joined BSF after graduating from Wheaton College where she studied spiritual discipleship in a digital world.

 

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Jesus’ Ultimate Lifestyle Guide

Jesus’ Ultimate Lifestyle Guide

Jesus’ Guide to the Ultimate Lifestyle

By Dr. Mark Bailey- Dallas Theological Seminary

How do ordinary people, living ordinary lives, live “in the world, but not of it?” 

Every morning we wake up and go to work. Most of us watch the news and check our email. We care for our families and enjoy our friends. On the surface, we look a lot like our neighbors. But as Christians, God calls us to be different. That difference is for a distinct purpose. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16, to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”   

As Christ followers, Jesus asks us to pursue a life that’s fundamentally different from the cultures around us, even in the everyday moments. 

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul tells us to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders …” 

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus casts a vision for a fulfilled life that surpasses all others, the ultimate lifestyle. A life that is fundamentally different from those around us. And, who would not want a secure future, to leave a lasting legacy, to enjoy great relationships and possess unusual insight?

Through the Beatitudes, Jesus promises these things and more to those with a mindset to pursue Godly character. But along with the blessings come distinct conditions. Jesus proposes these unique qualities to us in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12.

A Secure Future

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  

If we want a secure future that extends through this life and into eternity, we need to come to Jesus with a humble heart of faith. This humble approach recognizes our spiritual poverty, which can only be addressed by God’s gracious provision. The assurance of our present possession and future presence in the kingdom of God is only possible by recognizing our spiritual need is total and not partial. Faith is a response to grace that only God can provide.  

A Calm Heart

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  

If we want to maintain a calm heart and a cleansed conscience in a fallen world, a conscious recognition of sin followed by appropriate repentance is a necessity. Mourning in the Bible is almost always associated with the conviction of the sin. Comfort comes with the promise that God is faithful and just to forgive when that sin is confessed (1 John 1:9).

A Lasting Legacy

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” 

If we want to experience all that God intends us to experience in this world, we need to bring an attitude of gentle restraint, and place whatever power or authority we possess under His control. Meekness is not weakness, but a tender heartedness knowing that the reward for servant-hearted leadership will be rewarded in the future when we co-reign with Christ in His kingdom.

A Deep Sense of Fulfillment

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied

If we want to live a fulfilling life of meaning and purpose, we must come with a teachable spirit to learn God’s definition of what a flourishing life should look like. A biblical worldview means living life “rightly” according to the revealed standards of God. 

Great Relationships

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” 

If we want to enjoy meaningful relationships with other people, we need to reflect the gracious love and forgiveness we have received from God toward others. Corrie ten Boon, survivor of Nazi imprisonment in World War II, said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and then to discover the prisoner was you.” As we see in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to ask for forgiveness while we also extend forgiveness to others.

Unusual Insight

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  

If we want to gain unusual spiritual insight into the ways and wisdom of God, we will need to live a life of holiness by allowing God to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Like Moses, we should sincerely pray to the Lord: “Show me now your ways that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight” (Exodus 33:13).

A Great Reputation

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” 

If we want to earn a Christ-like reputation before a watching world, we must be known for promoting reconciliation with a spirit of fairness, free from partiality. According to this text, we are most like Christ when we seek to bring people back into harmonious relationships. In fact, Paul summarized the ministry to which he has called all believers as ambassadors for Christ with a single term: “reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Rest in Future Justice

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  

If we want to faithfully endure hardship, misunderstanding, or slander for the sake of the gospel with the hope of ultimate justice, we will need to come to Jesus with an attitude of patient rejoicing. When we know our heavenly reward is coming, we are in good company in whatever we face. Peter prompts us to remember others suffering around the world by resisting Satan while at the same time standing for the faith (1 Peter 5:9). 

Jesus follows the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:13-14 by teaching, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? … You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Jesus tells us that people of such integrity make an impact for Him in the world. The beatitudes and their prerequisite behaviors are what make God’s people the “salt and light” that counter the decay and darkness of this present world.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us how to establish a credible witness to our neighbors. He tells us how to be different and find fulfillment in Him. Let us not be a people who lose their saltiness. According to Jesus, living with the values of God’s kingdom, while awaiting its consummation, is the ultimate lifestyle.

Dr. Mark L. Bailey

BSF Board Member

Dr. Mark L. Bailey is the Chancellor and Senior Professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, He has served at DTS for 37 years. Prior to assuming the seminary’s presidency, Dr. Bailey served as professor of Bible Exposition and vice president of academic affairs. He pastored churches in Arizona and Texas. He was seminar instructor for the Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for 20 years and is in currently in demand for Bible conferences and other preaching engagements. He is married to his wife, Barby, and they have two married sons and six grandchildren.

 

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